by Anne Goodwyn Jones ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 8, 1981
Can a genteel Southern lady voice her own view of the society that has put her on a pedestal? And if she does, isn't it likely that ""Dixie's Diadem"" will turn out to be its critic as well? The answer on both counts is yes. Literary scholar Jones (Allegheny College) selects seven writers of various times, areas, styles, quality, and popularity who all were ""raised to be Southern ladies, physically pure, fragile, and beautiful, socially dignified, cultured, and gracious, within the family sacrificial and submissive, yet, if the occasion required, intelligent and brave."" To be a Southern lady and a writer is almost a contradiction in terms, making the woman so afflicted ""a walking oxymoron""--forcing each of these writers to face the condition of womanhood as an issue. Jones selects for analysis: Augusta Jane Evans' Beulah (1859), Grace King's Monsieur Motte (1886), Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899), Mary Johnston's Hagar (1913), Ellen Glasgow's Virginia (1913) and Life and Gabriella (1916), Frances Newman's The Hard-Boiled Virgin (1926) and Dead Lovers Are Faithful Lovers (1928), and Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936), as well as shorter fiction by several of these authors. From the time of Evans' female Bildungsroman to Mitchell's historical saga (still one of the all-time bestsellers), the image of Southern ladyhood, central to the identity of the South, remains the same; and these writers, according to Jones' biographical account and close textual analysis, consequently run up against similar themes: the quality and effect of gender differences, the structure of marriage and family life, the problem of individual growth and freedom, the nature of female sexuality, parallels of sex and race prejudice, conflict between independence and dependence, the nature of art and the artist, and the antagonistic demands of realism and romanticism. Jones' introductory chapter on the historical origins of the model Southern lady and her familiarity with secondary sources anchor her careful readings. True to the Southern lady tradition she shares, Jones draws few fiat-out conclusions and none that is likely to offend; but her questions will interest students of literature, women's history, and the South.
Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981
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